The real elecampane is a versatile plant, which mainly feels at home in cottage gardens. In the wild, the perennial is often found along streams and rivers, although Inula helenium can also cope with dry soil without any problems. The herbaceous plant was forgotten for a long time, but passionate and tradition-conscious hobby gardeners have brought the wild plant back into their own gardens. As a solitary perennial – but also planted in groups – the elecampane offers a distinctive sight in natural gardens.
Table of Contents
location and soil
The elecampane feels most comfortable in cottage gardens and on natural green spaces. Planting in a place that is too dark is out of the question for the perennial perennial, it should rather enjoy several hours of sunshine a day. The plants are susceptible to damage from windthrow, so treat the elecampane to a wind-protected location.
The thick roots of the herbaceous plant prefer a permeable, humus-rich substrate. This is the only way to ensure that the Inula helenium develops optimally and does not grow sluggishly. The perennial also tolerates a small amount of sand in the soil and meets its requirement for a dry place.
watering and fertilizing
Less is more – this statement applies exactly to the native and robust wild plant. The aster family can cope with temporary drought without any problems. Even on hot summer days, you don’t have to reach for the watering can and water as soon as the top layer of soil has dried. It is poured in the early morning or late afternoon. Avoid the direct midday heat so that the valuable liquid does not evaporate unused in the sun.
As demanding as the real elecampane is in terms of location and substrate, it is frugal when it comes to the supply of nutrients. Mix larger quantities of compost into the soil in spring and late summer and mulch it regularly during the rest of the main growing season. An artificial liquid or long-term fertilizer is completely unnecessary for this plant.
The perennial shrub can be propagated by seed and root division. While sowing takes place once a year, vegetative propagation can be carried out twice a year.
Elecampane is one of the plants that germinate in light and as such the seeds of the plant must not be completely covered with substrate. Collect the seed pods after flowering in September and store in a cool, dry place. In this way you prevent germs or mold infestation of the seed. You can spread the seeds outdoors from March/April or on the windowsill from the end of February.
- Choose a flat vessel.
- Scatter the seeds gently onto the substrate.
- Keep evenly moist with a water spray.
- Avoid sources of heat and prolonged exposure to the sun.
At an ambient temperature of around 20°C, the germination period is between 7 and 16 days. The nutrient content of the soil plays no role in the cultivation. You should only work large amounts of compost or horse droppings into the soil at the final outdoor location. By pulling them up on the windowsill, you have the opportunity to protect the young plants from snail damage and other pests. Prick out the young elecampane as soon as the herbaceous growths have reached a height of about 10 centimetres. When moving outdoors, you should first slowly acclimate the plants to direct sunlight. In this way you avoid unwanted damage to the sensitive leaves.
The roots of the Inula helenium are considered a delicacy and can also be made into an expectorant tea. When digging up the plant, you should take the opportunity and rejuvenate the versatile plant. Divide the extensive root ball into plant parts of the same size as possible and plant them immediately in the desired location. A special care of the freshly divided elecampane pieces is not necessary. Cover the roots a few centimeters with substrate and water firmly. The best time for root division is in early spring or late summer. Because then the roots have enough strength to form new shoots and leaves.
Use a sharp ax to cut through the massive root system to minimize the risk of injury. In addition, it is important to thoroughly clean and disinfect the tool before and after completing the work. Many fungal pathogens and also pest eggs are transmitted to other plants via garden tools.
When sowing and also when planting young seedlings, the final height of the garden perennial should be taken into account. With its impressive growth height of two meters, the plant takes up a lot of space in your own garden. It is best planted in groups. For example, set accents with the herbaceous plant directly on the fence or use it to cover up the compost and other unsightly locations in your own garden. Only the demands of the Inula helenium for sun, nutrients and water have to be met. Have the following materials ready:
- lime-poor water
- fine pebbles
- compost or horn shavings
Dig a planting hole about twice the width and depth of the root ball. Pebbles and humus are added to the excavated earth. The stones ensure that the ground does not become compacted even in summer and that waterlogging cannot occur. Unlike with potted plants, you should refrain from bringing lava chips or broken pottery into the soil. In addition to preparing the soil, it is advisable to spread a layer of compost directly on the bottom of the planting hole. Insert the plant and gently press the substrate firmly all around. The last step is to cast firmly, keep the soil sufficiently moist for about 14 days. This speeds up acclimatization and rooting of the plant.
Elecampane is one of the bee-friendly plants and the yellow flowers of the aster family attract these hard-working insects in droves.
Keep this in mind when choosing the location and avoid planting directly in the vicinity of children’s play areas. The minimum distance between the individual perennials is about 60 centimeters. If you want to use the roots for consumption, you should extend the distance to other elecampane plants to 1 meter. This ensures that the root ball can develop unhindered.
The herbaceous plants sprout again every year. Therefore, treat the plants to a radical pruning in early spring. However, dead, wilting and pest-infested shoots can also be removed during the main growing season. This stimulates the elecampane to form new shoots and leaves. Do not crush the healthy shoots when cutting, but use a sharp garden knife for the work instead of scissors.
Cold does not play a significant role for the Inula helenium. Protected in the ground, the roots of the deciduous plant survive before they sprout again in spring. A special fleece or a protective mulch layer is therefore unnecessary for the elecampane.
- Foliage discoloration – Often due to a lack or oversupply of nutrients. Check the substrate and fertilize if necessary or stop fertilizing completely. A location that is too dark can also have a negative effect on the development and coloring of the leaves.
- Flower does not develop – The yellow flowers only develop in the second year. If the perennial does not sprout in the third year, you should change the planting location.
- Soil preparation – An important care measure is regular mulching and removing weeds. When planting or sowing, remove large stones in the soil that could impede the development of the root ball.
- Formation of the rootstock – The root system of the plant can be used in many ways in your own kitchen and is also used in naturopathy. To do this, encourage the growth of the rootstock by completely removing the inflorescences. The plant uses the resources that are free again to train the root ball more intensively.
pests and diseases
The elecampane is susceptible to a variety of fungal pathogens and harmful insects. An infestation of the same does not always lead to the death of the entire perennial. However, to minimize the risk of spreading to neighboring plants, you should still take effective countermeasures.
Aphids – The aphids that suck cell sap are among the most widespread plant pests in the world. The sticky excretions of the animals attract sooty mold and ants. Preventing an infestation is often difficult, since healthy perennials are also infested by aphids. With the right tips, you can still use simple home remedies to defend yourself against the unwelcome plant inhabitants:
- Use predators such as ladybugs and parasitic wasps.
- Spray nettle and horsetail broth.
- Wash the affected plant areas with soapy water.
Shield Beetles – These insects, which are only a few millimeters in size, cause immense damage to plants when they are densely populated. The beetles and their offspring eat holes in the foliage. Check the elecampane regularly and shake off any bugs that are present early in the morning. Spraying with nettle broth has also proven itself.
Powdery mildew – The pathogen known as the “fair weather fungus” occurs mainly in plants that are already severely weakened by heat and drought. When infested, the leaves and shoots have a white, mealy coating. Remove and discard all infected plant parts. The mildew species require living tissue, so there is no risk of infection from composted material. Apply a decoction of whey and water to heavily infested shoots and leaves twice a week. Prevent powdery mildew by regularly watering the elecampane on hot summer days and mulching the soil.
As a solitary plant or planted in groups, the elecampane offers a fascinating and strange eye-catcher in your own garden. The perennial aster family is easy to cultivate, but should not be left completely to its own devices. With the leaves and roots of the Inula helenium, you can also add culinary value to your own kitchen.